If you've ever wondered where Jimmy Fallon dines on a night off, you could have found him noshing on vegetarian crudo at East Hampton's new robata and seafood spot, O by Kissaki, on a steamy mid-August Saturday.
During the restaurant's opening night, the dining room and patio saw the likes of Fallon, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Bobbi Brown, according to owner Garry Kanfer, as the kitchen debuted a menu of crudo, sushi and maki rolls, but also hot Japanese dishes grilled over coals, robata-style.
"About 70 percent of the menu is based on robata meat, chicken and seafood," said Kanfer. "The sushi pieces and nigiri are there, but not as traditional as at Kissaki."
He's referring to Kissaki in Water Mill, an omakase-focused sushi restaurant he opened last summer with executive chef Mark Garcia. In fact, the last 18 months have seen lightning-fast expansion for Kissaki, one that began with a single restaurant on New York City's Bowery in January 2020, two months before COVID-19 lockdown.
"My plan was never to open one restaurant, but I didn't think it was going to grow as fast as it did," said Kanfer.
Kissaki's quick pivot to omakase boxes, which hit a chord with those sheltering in place, led to expansion to the Upper West Side, Greenwich, Connecticut, and Water Mill; two pop-ups in Montauk (now closed) and Long Island City; and now the O by Kissaki offshoot, which will also expand to Miami within weeks. All are headed by Garcia, a mentee of Chicago sushi master Kaze Chan.
O by Kissaki takes over the former Zok-Kon in East Hampton, which was gutted to create a minimalist space with 70 seats inside and 30 on the patio.
The majority of the seafood is flown in from Japan; offbeat takes on nigiri sushi ($9 to $15 per piece) include blue fin tuna (akami) sushi with wasabi relish and Faroe Island salmon with shimeji mushrooms, truffle oil and chives. Maki rolls ($9 to $28) pair that Faroe Island salmon sashimi with whipped cream cheese, ikura, lemon vinaigrette and everything bagel spice, or King crab meat with avocado and asparagus tempura and chanterelles. Among the handful of crudos is a scallop (hotate) crudo with cucumber, shiso oil and a lime togarashi emulsion, as well as a vegetarian roasted beet and radish version.
The robata grill and hot dishes ($12 to $48) run from chicken marinated in shio koji (a fermented rice marinade) and grilled lobster tail with sweet miso butter to two takes on kara-age, or Japanese-style fried chicken, that involve fried grouper with a jicama salad and crispy yellowtail collar (hamachi kama) with ginger aioli.
Kanfer said Chicago bartender Robert Murphy, an alum of The Aviary and Next in Chicago, honed the beverage list, which even at first glance seems like one of the more innovative on Long Island — think Japanese vodka martinis with sesame shochu and margaritas with yuzu kosho, plus a lengthy sake bottle list.
For all of its finesse and glam, Kanfer said the rapid string of Kissaki openings, especially during a time when staff are hard to find, has been a grind. "This was a tough summer, and it took a toll on myself and my staff," he said. "I've been recruiting myself. I got back on the phones, and am calling all my contacts."
That won't hinder the next planned opening on Long Island, though: Kissaki will open in Manhasset early next year, said Kanfer.
O by Kissaki is open Wednesday to Sunday from 6 p.m. to midnight (the kitchen closes at 11 p.m.) at 47 Montauk Hwy. in East Hampton, 631-309-2352. For more, go to exploreobykissaki.com.